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Lionel Messi: A tragic, avoidable end of an era at FC Barcelona... but could he be the last true icon?

·2-min read
 (AP)
(AP)

Barcelona without Lionel Messi and Lionel Messi without Barcelona is unthinkable to generations of football fans.

A Barcelona team without the spellbinding Argentine is almost unrecognisable; if this is to be the end, then it is a sad moment for the Blaugrana and for football - but one entirely of the club’s own making.

A manager opined recently that becoming a club legend is something players do not necessarily strive for any longer, but Messi certainly does not fall into that category.

As Barca said in their statement announcing that a new contract for their greatest ever player was not possible, terms had been agreed, but could not be ratified due to La Liga laws. It is thought that the agreement would see Messi, at 34, sign until 2026 in order to aid the club's self-inflicted financial plight.

Whatever their relationship in recent years - and to say it has been fractious at best is generous - this was a player helping his beloved club and home. Messi would of course have been financially rewarded beyond anyone's dreams upon signing, but still, a nice thing for him to do, relatively.

For almost two decades, one of the greatest players - and for this writer the greatest - has defied logic and carried millions along his brilliant journey with this mystical club, a factory of footballing royalty and often the holy grail of any player starting out - in no small part because of the exploits of their No10.

Messi is perhaps the last great club legend, and this end feels tragic, mainly because it was entirely avoidable.

The pandemic has hit Barcelona's finances hard, as it has everyone's, but ignorant decision-making at Camp Nou has led the Spanish giants to this point.

The club have racked up debts of more than €1billion, despite an annual revenue - according to their most recent accounts - of €729m. The spending, signing and borrowing has been erratic and irresponsible, ending in a moment many had feared, but few believed would arrive.

The whole of Catalonia and many across football will be willing Messi to both continue and end his career in Barcelona, whenever that day comes,. For that to happen, LaLiga rules around spending must be relaxed for a very particular case, which is also an uncomfortable situation for football.

Should this season bring a new home for one of the game's finest, it will be the end of an era for Barcelona, Spain and football as a whole.

It may also see the end of a time when players go out to do their utmost to become a deity at one single club. We can only hope that is not the case.

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